Signs of the future
by Viola Outdoor’s Ammar Sharaf

As Viola Outdoor upgrades its static properties to state-of-the-art digital, CEO Ammar Sharaf explains what DOOH means for his clients, the public and the UAE’s capital.

Campaign Middle East: What are the advantages of digital out-of-home (DOOH) to advertisers, the public and the environment?

Ammar Sharaf: For advertisers, one of the most significant benefits associated with DOOH advertising is our ability to take advantage of geolocation data for accurate attribution, segment targeting and measured evaluation, and content carried within digital formats can be tailored to specifics. For example, we can remotely update data related to time-sensitive activities, the weather, and even traffic conditions.

With better analytics applied to location and time data, advertisers have the ability to track consumer movement while reaching larger audiences. Digital signage reaches consumers when they are outside and not looking at their mobile phones or being distracted by other advertisers. An additional benefit to the public of our two-sided LED screens is that the side facing pedestrians can be used for community messaging or more in-depth content.

All of these facets combine to create a system today that embraces the future thinking of digital technology and how it can contribute to enhancing sustainability and the green economy.

What percentage of Viola’s inventory is digital now, and what is your roadmap to digitalisation?

At the moment, we are assessing our options on the roll-out plans of our digital products in collaboration with our partners in the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport. I have been involved in the revised thinking about OOH in Abu Dhabi since the very beginning, and my experience has given me the privilege of being part of the team that studied DOOH and how it will re-engineer the urban infrastructure.

After two and a half years of consultations and planning, I concluded that the future of OOH will be built on digital ‘on-ground’ foundations, allowing us to develop our ambitious plans for a roadmap for the industry literally from the bottom up. We will introduce our range of products in phases, the first of which should be complete within a few short weeks, and will comprise a variety of digital displays that fit the fabric of Abu Dhabi’s urban landscape.

What are the opportunities for more interactive campaigns using DOOH?

I think the keyword here is flexibility. Investing in traditional advertising can be problematic because to grab a customer’s attention, messages must be simple, so you put a limited amount of information in one place. With DOOH, you can display several messages on one product; a retailer can display a countdown to a special offer over Eid to encourage sales. However, a different range of goods may see better consumer interest, so we quickly change the content to reflect that.

Also unique to digital is the possibility of adding elements of motion to a campaign, making the content more versatile – and with two-sided LED products, the screen facing pedestrians can communicate directly with passers-by on community-specific, targeted messaging or dynamic interactive content that engages pedestrians. It is this fantastic flexibility that will revolutionise creativity within the industry.

Is it more measurable than traditional OOH?

Absolutely. For 20 years we have provided useful data for advertisers to work with, like our unique daily effective circulation statistics, and this is enhanced with DOOH as the data is more specific and quantifiable.

Based on our deep Abu Dhabi knowledge and industry experience, we provide advertisers with a range of data on location, target audience and product, which gives us a greater return on specifics like visitor demographics, accurate statistics and campaign results. This way, advertisers can accurately track their campaign effectiveness and message recall.

Companies can access so-called ‘big data’ to find out exactly what their customers want, who their best customers are and, most importantly, why people choose different products, and more, because the more a company knows about its customers, the more competitive it becomes.

What changes in DOOH are you most excited about in the coming years?

With new innovations and ideas arriving almost daily, the one thing we can be sure of is that change is inevitable.

I think that Viola’s focus in the short-term future is on digitising more OOH spaces, researching how to make DOOH even more responsive and flexible, and building an effective digitised network of products that can deliver certifiable results.

For the longer term, we have developed a series of plans that will transform the digital landscape in Abu Dhabi, opening the doors to a new era of partnerships with our clients. These will include iconic bespoke architecturally original devices that will add distinguished elegance and artistic taste as landmark installations, upgrading and enhancing the out-of-home market.

Viola Digital Outdoor’s goal is to contribute to Abu Dhabi’s digital evolution. As a long-standing Abu Dhabi based agency that understands the city as no one else does, we are ideally situated to make that happen.

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